HOUSTON -- The optimism flowed from speeches by Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom hinted that they are expecting big things while speaking at a media luncheon on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, where the team's slogan for this season was unveiled: "Earn It."The
HOUSTON -- The optimism flowed from speeches by Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom hinted that they are expecting big things while speaking at a media luncheon on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, where the team's slogan for this season was unveiled: "Earn It."
The Astros have put themselves in position to be a force in the American League and are welcoming the challenges that come with it. The keys to the team that Luhnow put together this winter will be handed over to Hinch beginning next week, when Spring Training begins in West Palm Beach, Fla., signaling the start of one of the most anticipated Astros seasons in recent memory.
The pieces are in place, and the expectations are high. After falling short of the postseason in 2016, the improved Astros will indeed have to earn it in 2017.
• Astros Spring Training information
"I'm excited about the additions we made, and I love our team," Hinch said. "We're going to be pretty bullish about our team, because we have a good team. We have to go out and earn it like we say, but we have a ton of optimism for all the right reasons."
Hinch, who saw George Springer and Alex Bregman talking via Facetime earlier in the day and provided that as an example of his team's strong chemistry, will travel to West Palm Beach later this week. Camp opens on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report.
"We're going to do all the work to prepare to make this a special season for us, to make this a special season for our fans, and ultimately play as long as we can," Hinch said.
The optimism comes from a lineup that became more potent when McCann, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran were added to Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Springer, Alex Bregman, Evan Gattis and Yulieski Gurriel. The Astros are the trendy pick to win the AL West this year.
"What has this offseason gotten us? It's gotten us an opportunity," Hinch said.
Hinch said on Tuesday that he asked his players at the end of last season if they were going to be interested in being good, or if they were going to be committed to being good. He expects a team committed to win to hit the field next week.
"If we're committed, it won't matter that McCann is going to hit eighth for the first time in his career," Hinch said. "It won't matter that somebody is going to be the long man in the bullpen. It won't matter that somebody is going to sit next to me and wait for a pinch-hit opportunity. It won't matter who will close. If you're interested in taking it to the next level and being committed, great things can happen."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.